I went to Crash for one reason and one reason only. The babes. Were talking major Hollywood action here Holly Hunter, Rosanna Arquette and a new actress named Deborah Kara Unger, an icy blond who, in fact, has the other two beat in the smoldering sexuality department.
Oh, yeah, sure its a David Cronenberg movie, he of The Brood, The Fly, Dead Ringers, and a whole bunch of other horror films. Hes probably the most literate guy in the movie biz, a truly thoughtful intellectual in a den of vipers. But you know those intellectuals. Behind that egghead facade theres a raging pervert, so naturally Cronenberg (whos also a car fanatic) would adapt J. G. Ballards quasi-distopian novel about a gang of auto eroticists.
And this is a sex film that is all sex. I mean it. Theres little in the way of back story, or even story story. Its about a guy named James Ballard (James Spader). He directs commercials or something like that. He and his wife Catherine (Unger) play this little game they fuck everything that moves and then tell each other about it. We are introduced at the start of the film to both of them in mid-fuck with different people. Later, Ballard gets in a car wreck and, as a consequence, he hitches up with a bunch of people, led by Vaughn (Elias Koteas) who are into car sex. Not just fucking in cars, but getting turned on by wreckage, speed, blood and dismemberment. Theres no story here in the conventional sense. Its an examination of a bunch of hedonists and there is no doubt in my mind that in some of the scenes these people are really fucking. Crash may be the defining movie of the `90s.
But the funny thing is, I go see the movie and in the lobby afterwards theres a guy and a girl standing around and they dont look too good. Hes got a cast on his arm and her face, beautiful and pale, is peppered with red welts and bruises. Im standing next to them for a while and the guy turns to me and says, Great movie, huh? I agree. So we get to talking and it turns out that hes more or less the real life equivalent of the Vaughn character. I immediately ask for an interview, vowing to maintain their anonymity. We met a couple of days later on a rare sunny afternoon in a quiet bar in downtown Portland. Hes in his early 30's, rugged and independently wealthy. Shes in her late 20's, a former model. Lets call him Van and her April. Van was surprisingly talkative, while April was provocatively silent.
Exotic: So you two have really done some of the things shown in Crash ?
Van: Not some, all . Were turned on by the mix of metal and flesh, of wounds and genitals. Our lives are given over to getting closer to that perfect, definitive auto orgasmic high. It may lead to our deaths.
Exotic: So which came first, your obsessions or the book by Ballard?
Van: The book. I read it in my punk days, and knew instantly that Crash was for me, about me.
Exotic: How did you go about getting into this world?
Van: I spent a lot of time around cars, looking for like-minded people. I take pictures. Youd be amazed at how a photographer is given this incredible permission by society to go anywhere, do anything, talk to anybody. Thats how I met April. We were both vultures at a crash out on Sunset Highway. I took her picture, she asked for a copy, and the rest is history, man.
Exotic: Was it easy to find people with your tastes?
Van: Easier than you think. Once you accept Crash as your Bible and Ballard as your Messiah, then you naturally gravitate toward people who give off that vibe. Its amazing how many there are. Most of them live here.
Exotic: So youre saying that Portland is the epicenter of auto eroticism?
Van: Yes, theres quite a large community of car fetishists here. You think that all those car wrecks you read about in the Oregonian are accidents? Think about it. 82nd Avenue, all those car lots. The rain, driving us indoors, into our machines. The slippery roads, the curving tree-lined streets. Any auto eroticist who doesnt move here is crazy. I even know a story or two about your own little Darklady over there at Exotic.
Exotic: How large is the community of auto eroticists?
Van: Oh, about 100 or so people.
Exotic: Wow! That many?
Van: Yes, and were expecting more once this movie gets wider circulation. Were steeling ourselves for a rash of dilettantes. But no one plays as hard as me and April.
Exotic: What are some of the things youve done lately?
Van: April fools everyone. She looks calm, almost icy, but inside she is a raging sex animal who lives for orgasms; the more the better. Last weekend she seduced an emergency ward doctor, right on the operating table. He was trying to patch up her face after we had a little incident out near Oregon City. Me, well, I was in the west hills the other day. I come around this corner from the Arboretum. Yeah, Im going a little too fast, but so fucking what? Anyway, I bang into this Mercedes backing out of a driveway. Its not much, just a fender bender. Happens all the time. I get out, a little hot, a little turned on. I go up to the car, and theres this rich, thin, bejeweled woman sitting there, and shes, like, freaking out, thinking that her world is falling apart. Shes, like, quivering. I open the door, and she looks at me weird. I realize that shes turned on too, but in a scared kind of a way. So slowly, calmly, I reach down and put my fingers up her skirt and into her cunt. Its wet as hell. She looks like shes gonna slap me, then her eyes flutter and she leans back and I bring her off. Then when Im done with her I just up and go. Bashing into someones car is a great way to meet chicks. Later, after I told April, she was so turned on that we drove back early in the dark of night and fucked on the ladys bashed up car. It was great.
Exotic: What are some more extreme things youve done?
Van: Once April and I fucked on the Banfield at two in the morning, with me driving and her on top. A couple of times I couldnt even see where I was going. Weve staged a few crashes out near the airport. Thats about the only place where you have the space and the solitude. Long roads. Places where people can sit. My personal goal is to recreate Robert Mitchums death at the end of Thunder Road , you know, when he drives into the power station. Thats a hard one, though. April likes to go into auto showrooms and tempt the sales guys, tearing up the seats a little, or stealing car lighters.
Exotic: Howd you get that cast on your arm?
Van: Its a weird story. Of course. I know this chick, shes like Rosanna Arquette in the movie, fucked up legs and all that. Big braces everywhere. One of my fantasies has been to sort of sneak into a real auto race while its going on and take a couple of turns around the track. So a couple of Sundays ago there was this race at Portland Speedway. My friend is game, so we drive out, and I use my photographer guise to get in, and I get around to the back and wait. When the race starts I let the action build. Im driving an old Pontiac Tempest, see, so at first everyone thinks that Im part of the scene. Then, I just shoot out. I get onto the track. We take about two turns and nobody really notices at first. My friend is stroking my dick and fingering herself as we zip around. Then I begin to see people sort of standing and looking at us. I figure its time to take off. I try to negotiate the exit off the track and fuck it up, smashing my side of the car into the wall. Broke my arm. My girl had to steer for a few miles, until we could pull off the road and she could take over. Never did come either, damn it.
Exotic: Where will this all end?
Van: Well, thats the big question, isnt it? We are going to keep going until we get that ultimate high. I dont know what shape it will take. Maybe going off a cliff. Maybe smashing into a cop car or a Brinks truck. I dont know. But we are exploring it. Every day we do something different.
Exotic: Arent you afraid that in talking to me youve blown your cover?
Van: Hey, let `em try and catch me.